Center for National and International Studies
“Swift military buildups heighten the risk of a potential new conflict in the region…”
(Lack of) Human Rights and Freedoms
Yet another military veteran has taken his own life. Isayev Emil Nizami oglu, a participant in the 44-day war residing in the village of Tatyan, Masalli district, has tragically committed suicide. The insufficient attention from the authorities to the needs of many veterans often leads to such distressing outcomes. Opposition leader Ali Karimli has questioned the lack of concern from Ilham Aliyev, asking why the president is not addressing the alarming trend of suicides among Karabakh veterans. Karimli emphasizes that resolving the social challenges faced by 10-12 thousand Karabakh veterans should not be a formidable task for a country as rich as Azerbaijan. However, regrettably, the authorities seem uninterested in tackling these issues, resulting in a continuation of veteran suicides, added Karimli.
“The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled to compensate political prisoner Lachin Valiyev for his unjust detention. However, as Valiyev is currently incarcerated, he needs to provide his family with power of attorney to open a bank account. Unfortunately, Emin Jafarov, the acting head of penal institution No. 10, is preventing Jafarov’s family from getting the documents to do. Despite meetings with Fikret Gafarov, the head of the Penitentiary Service of the Ministry of Justice, no resolution has been reached. Lachin Valiyev, speaking from prison, said that the administration of the penitentiary service told him that “ISIS might as well transfer money to the account if they allow his family to open a bank account”. This absurd argument and the whole situation raise concerns about the effectiveness and the quality of management in the whole country.
Journalist Seymur Hezi said that as the land borders of Azerbaijan have been shut since the start of the Covid pandemic, it creates extra challenges for the ordinary people and leads to the violation of the right to movement. “The decision to keep land borders closed led to a significant and distressing situation in the country. This policy not only constitutes a severe legal violation but also hinders patients from receiving necessary treatment, complicates the movement of students, and traps individuals who had planned affordable trips to neighboring countries. It is a form of mass discrimination against citizens, directly infringing upon the freedom of movement.”
The term of Afieddin Mammadov, the Chairman of the Workers’ Table Trade Union, has been prolonged by an additional two months. Following a court ruling in Baku on September 21, Afiaddin Mammadov was placed in pretrial detention for two months. Mammadov was apprehended near his residence in Baku on September 20, accused of intentionally causing bodily harm and engaging in armed hooliganism. These charges stem from an allegation by an unidentified individual who claimed Mammadov had stabbed him with a knife. Mammadov denies the accusations, and if convicted, he could face up to eight years in prison.
As reported by lawyer Zibeyda Sadigova, an individual named Hummet Ismayilov passed away due to illness while in penitentiary. This marks the 21st death in prisons during the past four months. Simultaneously, Gubad Ibadoglu, a professor from the London School of Economics (LSE) who is incarcerated, is experiencing severe health issues, with appeals for proper medical treatment or home arrest remaining unanswered and unaddressed.
Governance and Corruption
As per the most recent World Bank data, Azerbaijan stands at the bottom among South Caucasus countries concerning the ownership of bank accounts by individuals aged 15 and above. This includes both physical accounts in financial institutions and virtual accounts accessed through mobile services. The ownership rate is approximately 70% in Georgia, 55% in Armenia, and 45% in Azerbaijan.
Azadlig newspaper reports that Azerbaijan will buy the “Barak MX” air defense system worth 1.2 billion dollars from Israel. These systems can neutralize aircraft and attack missiles at a distance of 35 km to 150 km, depending on the type of missile launched. Meanwhile, France agreed to provide Armenia with short-range MISTRAL “Atlas-RC” HHM systems and “Bastion” armored fighting vehicles.
Commenting on these developments, a member of the APFP, Fuad Gahramanli, said that as the peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan has not been achieved yet, both sides will increase their military expenditures. “As it can be seen, as the peace treaty between the two countries is prolonged, the competition between the parties in the direction of armament is also increasing. Although, at first glance, there is no reason for a new war between the two countries, the conflicting interests of global and regional power centers in this region may lead to new proxy wars. In particular, Russia’s reluctance to leave the South Caucasus and its desire to settle in the territory of Armenia along the Zangezur corridor create conditions for the region that carry the potential for conflict and armed conflict. It should be taken into account that even if Azerbaijan itself is not a direct party to the conflict, it can also inadvertently turn Azerbaijan into a target as a result of the escalation of the war between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East or a military conflict that may arise between Iran and Israel after that. At the same time, the fact that the energy sector, which is the basis of Azerbaijan’s economy, is mainly located in the Caspian Sea increases the importance of air defense as an important reason. In this regard, the geopolitical competition for the Middle East and the South Caucasus and the large air strike capabilities of the neighboring countries make it necessary to increase Azerbaijan’s defense capabilities and keep army building as a priority area.”
Political commentator Arastun Orujlu argued that swift military buildups heighten the risk of a potential new conflict in the region.. Thus, not only diplomatic-political, but also military signs of the shift of the center of gravity of the constantly intensifying geopolitical struggle for the South Caucasus are showing themselves. Rapid armament increases the risk of a new war in the region. Against this background, it does not seem credible that the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace treaty will be signed soon.”
During a hearing on “The Future of Nagorno-Karabakh” hosted by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien conveyed that the United States has communicated to Baku that the normalization of bilateral relations hinges on progress in peace talks with Armenia. O’Brien stated during the hearing that there could not be “business as usual” in Washington’s relations with Baku. Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry, citing a “one-sided approach” by the United States, announced its inability to participate in a scheduled meeting with Armenia’s foreign minister in Washington on November 20. The objection was specifically directed at what Azerbaijan deemed “one-sided and biased” comments made by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien during his testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The foreign ministry contested O’Brien’s omission of the “illegal stationing of more than 10,000 Armenian armed forces” when he attributed the mass displacement of over 100,000 ethnic Armenians to Azerbaijan’s use of force in September. O’ Brien also noted that the U.S. had canceled high-level bilateral meetings and engagements with Azerbaijan, emphasizing the importance of urging Azerbaijan to “facilitate the return of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians who may wish to go back to their homes or visit cultural sites in the region” and to “restore unimpeded commercial, humanitarian, and pedestrian traffic to the region.” Moreover, O’Brien said that the US is ready to offer alternatives to the Russian peacekeepers in the region. “According to the 2020 ceasefire declaration, Russian troops are currently there, this is their first term. If there is an alternative for these countries (Armenia and Azerbaijan), the participation of Russian peacekeepers will no longer be necessary. They were no longer able to fulfill their duties as peacekeepers,” the US assistant secretary of state said. He added that the US is ready to offer an alternative to Russian peacekeepers: “The best approach is to give both countries an alternative – to work with us and with the West.”
The Turkish Parliament has approved the extension of the Turkish army’s presence in Azerbaijan for an additional year. Following deliberations, the proposal received acceptance. The document underscores the ongoing implementation of activities outlined in the Tripartite Declaration signed by Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia. Emphasizing Turkey’s robust support for Azerbaijan, it is affirmed that Turkey will persist in making significant contributions to the maintenance and fortification of peace and stability in the region.
November 17, 2023